Lockdown Day 136 – 6 Aug 2020 – Lies, Lies, Lies

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It is time for a Lockdown Journal again. As the economy opens up, I am getting busier. And I am working to implement many things that I started during lockdown. Hence I do not journal as often.

In the 1990’s I did an MBA. Many people think an MBA is the cat’s whiskers. I respect that opinion, because I know what I had to do to receive that MBA-degree. It also saddens me to tell you the truth. Reality is, MBA stands for Master of Bugger All. Even so, I am glad I did that studies, because it opened my mind like nothing else before. It exposed me to many subjects, and I did not become a master of any of them, but I learnt enough to think critically.

Don’t worry, this is not another conspiracy theory. It is a call to critical thinking! That will protect you against conspiracy theories

SUBTLE MANIPULATION

Right at the beginning of the studies, we did a course in Communication. That was interesting, especially that part where we looked at Opinion Polls and Newspaper reporting. It is amazing how a single word can slant the interpretation of a question or a news report. It is actually scientifically proved with numerous studies. I will not even go to the impact of photos to slant a report. We are subjected to this daily and may not even be aware of it.


As an example, just look at the photographs that go with a report. The easiest way to slant a reader negatively is to have an “ugly” photo of somebody with the report. You see the photo first (that is not an advert!) and the emotions go up. You are put in a frame of mind before you read the article. The photo is intended to get an emotional reaction.  If you want examples, just look at Trump and Helen Zille. In fact, just by looking at the photographs, you can get an idea where the publication stands in relation to the person in the photograph. Go check it out. And remember: there is no such thing as objectivity.

But, unfortunately, I never became a Master of Communication. I can look critically, though.

DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS

The other subject that I wish I could be a Master in, was Statistics. Alas, it will never be. But I did learn this – any average without a Median and Mode with preferably a Standard Deviation added, is worthless.

(You better check my statistics, as I am honest about my abilities!)

How Average is AVERAGE?

Let me illustrate: we have the numbers 4, 2, 3, 2, 5, 2, 17 = 33. Average is 35/7 = 5. Can you see how the 17 skews the average?  If we order it like this 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, it is easy to see that 2 (it appears 3 times) is the mode (it appears most frequently) and 3 is the median (it is smack dash in the center of the array). You understand the problem with averages? Yes, I know, everybody thinks their children is “just (above) average.” Unfortunately somebody must be a 2 to compensate for the 17 in that average!

statistics can lie

What Matters?

Here is another thing that drove the economy to where it is during lockdown. I call it manipulation by numbers. No matter where you go, 250 000 is a lot of people. As I am writing here, Worldometer says there are 18,983,280 Corona cases in the world. That is a half truth! There are 12,173,401 RECOVERED cases in the world. That means there are currently 6,098,566 ACTIVE cases in the world with 711,313 deaths. No, it is not a lie, it is just a skewed truth! I am not saying Worldometer is telling half truths! They just give the figures and I rely on them heavily. I am saying the people shouting out 18 million Corona Cases at the top of their voices are telling half-truths.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking lightly of Corona or anybody affected by it, I am just saying that numbers can be used to induce fear way beyond logic!

WHAT MATTERS?

In the above paragraph the only figure that really matters is ACTIVE cases. From a management point of view, the new infections is also important, because it show where we are in the process. It indicates what action we should take.

And the most important action all along was to protect the integrity of the medical system. It is up to the individual to protect himself and others. Wear your mask!

Let me rewrite that paragraph with the numbers – Worldometer says World Population is 7 804 050 500 and counting –

18,983,280 = 0.24% of total world population tested positive

6,098,566 = 0.08% of the world population are still active

711,313 = 0.01% of the world population has died (so far)

manipulation by numbers

Be critical

And now you also know why everything is expressed as “per million” – it makes it easier to notice the figures and work with it.

Once more, I am not making light of the numbers or the severity of Covid-19. It is by all means a deadly disease. It surely is worse than many other diseases. Losing somebody to death because of Covid is not just a statistic. Having somebody in hospital, perhaps dying and you cannot be there is traumatic. That is not just numbers. It is real.

My point is, if you look at my rewriting of the figures, do you think the panic was warranted?

And that is why I refused to follow the COVID-19 game like a 5 day cricket match. You can watch a 5-day cricket match ball-by-ball and even comment on every ball and stroke all day long. It is a pity 5-day cricket matches are not popular anymore, it is a lesson in strategy.

But if you watched COVID-19 unfold like a 5-day cricket enthusiast, you are probably now on Prozac!

THINK!

But, most importantly of all: I hope this journal will help you to look critically, read critically, think critically about everything, what you read in your favorite magazine or newspaper, about what politicians tell you and especially stuff you read on social media. Hell, some people cannot even recognize an outright joke!

So, what are your thoughts on this?


 

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